Hometown Stud: Bears add standout LB in free agency
Kirby Lee - USA Today Sports

Hometown Stud: Bears add standout LB in free agency

by - Senior Writer -

Although the bulk of free agency may not be underway quite yet, the Chicago Bears hoped on the market early and made their first significant signing of the free agent period. To everyone's surprise, it was not on the offensive side of the ball and instead on the defensive side where Chicago inked Free Agent LB TJ Edwards to a three-year deal.

Considering Roquan Smith, Khalil Mack, Danny Trevathon, and several others have been traded or released over the past several years, the Bears needed LB help, and Edwards certainly will provide that. With Jack Sanborn showing signs as a rookie last season, the Bears will now have two former Wisconsin Badgers in the LB room, and both should work wonders for this defense.

Granted, this signing can't become official until Wednesday; all it took was a 20-minute meeting and a handshake for the two sides to come to an initial contractual agreement for this upcoming season. When you dig deeper into the contract and look at the financials of the deal, the Bears are getting a great price on Edwards as he has agreed to a three-year contract worth 19.5 million and 12 million guaranteed.

This is a significant signing if the Bears want to improve their defense, but it won't be the last either, as Chicago is expected to be one of the more aggressive teams in free agency. Not only is Edwards a local product playing in the big 10, but he is an Illinois native that grew up in Lake Villa. Any time you have a chance to play for your hometown team, it is hard to pass up, and Edwards wasn't going to let this opportunity slip away.

Edwards may not be the top free-agent LB on the market, but he is very talented and will help improve this defense that needs all the help they can get. The 26-year-old has been in the league for four seasons and was a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles this past year, where he helped make them a top-10 defense en route to a Superbowl loss. Not only has he been a consistent player for the Eagles, but he has been on the Bears radar for a while, so this is one of those signings that some expected within the organization.

If this is just the first of what most expect to be many moves this offseason, then Ryan Poles did a great job. This is a sensible signing that helps fill a need on this team and will help improve a struggling defense. Edwards fits the veteran mold of the players that Poles wanted to target this offseason, which shows that he is a man of his word thus far. Considering what the fans had to deal with when Ryan Pace ran the show, this has to be refreshing to know Poles is a guy you can trust.

The University of Wisconsin product was a three-year starter with Philadelphia and is coming off his best season. Edwards not only started all 17 games this season, but then went on to start all three playoff games to tally 20 games this season. During the regular season, Edwards put up career-bests in total tackles (159), solo tackles (99), and QB Hits (5).

Those are better numbers than what anyone else put up on the Bears defense and are comparable to what Smith was averaging yearly. Edwards also had 10 tackles-for-loss last season. That is as many as he had in the 28 games he played over the previous two seasons. Could last season be the turning point in his career to get him to play at the level he expects himself to?

According to NFL experts, his play of Edwards is worth noting as he is listed as the 28th-best free agent this offseason. Not only that, some expected him to make around 13 million annually and earn a contract of up to 40 million plus. For the Bears to get him for half of that shows you what he feels about this organization and how much it meant to him to play for his hometown team.

Edwards will be a massive upgrade for the Bears and their defense. If he can come close to producing at the level he did last season, then losing Smith will be far less painful, as Edwards has proven he can produce with the best of them.

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